Join ScreenCritics as we sit down and watch ‘John Wick 2’.
Before we go in-depth with this review, there are three questions you need to answer to help you decide if this is the film for you. Did you see and enjoy the first John Wick film? Do you enjoy break neck action and visceral fight scenes? Do you have a spare two hours in your day this week? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then get yourself out there and see this film. If you can’t already tell, this is a glowing recommendation of the continuing adventures (and misfortunes) of former hitman John Wick. But let’s go more into detail as to why this is such an enjoyable adventure.
Starting only a handful of days from where the last film left off, John Wick is once again thrust into the life he left behind as a hitman to the underworld and almost spectre like in his legend. This may sound like a simple re-tread of the first pictures story, and in essence it is, however this time our protagonist is left without a choice to delve back into the world he turned away from. John Wick has to repay a marker, a blood debt, to the man who helped him leave the underworld behind and is given no choice in what decision he has to make in explosive fashion. As the way these stories usually go, things do not go as smoothly as intended and John finds himself once more consumed with vengeance on his mind and will go through anyone and anything to get it.
The ‘hiding in plain sight’ underworld that we were introduced to in the first film is back but more in-depth this time and you really do get the sense that this is its own culture, built into the fabric of regular society but with its own laws in an almost wild west type state. There is a moral code that must be adhered to and you immediately get the feeling these are stuck to, with serious repercussions if ignored, just from a singular expression in one particular scene. Night is a continuing theme in this film as well with the majority of the story happening over the space of several evenings but always concealing what goes on under cover of darkness until there is no longer an option to keep it so and the action spills into the day.
Getting the action right here is crucial to the continued success of the franchise after the impressive scenes that propelled the first feature to such popularity and this film is more than up to the task. The opening scene alone puts a number of other modern action films to shame and sensibly focuses on longer shots of what’s happening, rather than sporadic cuts that can make the scenes jarring and hard to follow. It must be warned however that this film is not for the squeamish, whilst not being overtly bloody (not a term you get to use too often), the visceral nature of the action really does hit home and you almost feel like you’ve received a gut punch yourself after certain sequences.
A large amount of credit for this has to go to the sound department who do some stellar work, not just with the soundtrack but with the fight scenes themselves. The punches here sound hefty and really get across the message that John Wick means business even when a gun is not his quickest option.
Keanu Reeves brings the right amount of intensity to the role once again and is clearly relishing playing the character, bombing through scenes with fluidity and almost having to conceal the giant grin that could easily break out in some moments. We also get the always excellent Ian McShane returning as the manager of the Continental and Lance Reddick also making an appearance as the fan favourite concierge. Also there is an enjoyably heelish turn from Riccardo Scamarcio as the films villain, who maintains a facade of unflappable sternness until push comes to shove and the real nature of the man shows through. Ruby Rose has a good go as the deaf merc Ares but sadly she does not have very much to play with in terms of her character or story besides ‘right hand man’. We also get the long-awaited Matrix reunion with Laurence Fishburne who has a pivotal role in the story but again this is not his story and the appearance is all too fleeting.
There are numerously positive things to say about this film and it manages to achieve the sadly uncommon feat of taking what worked with the first story and building on it, making the action more blisteringly intense but it also does what the mark of a great storyteller always does, it simply leaves you wanting more. Bring on John Wick 3.